After the story appeared, and the NSS took it up, the Lincolnshire Police issued a statement saying that there was no such police threat to John Richards.
But it did admit that if a complaint was received, an officer would attend and try to persuade Richards to take the poster down. If he refused - which he said he would -he would be arrested.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said:
The police response more or less confirms what Mr Richards is saying - if he insists on exercising free speech in the face of objections from someone who claims to be insulted or offended, then he will be arrested and possibly charged.
This is another example of the dangerous catch all nature of Section 5 of the Public Order Act and a strong argument for it to be radically changed to remove this threat to free expression.
Update: Christians and atheists unite against the police
It seems the police again reached for the notoriously over-broad Section 5 of the Public Order Act which outlaws 'insulting words or behaviour'.
Christians who have themselves been on the wrong-end of Section 5 would sympathise strongly with Mr Richards.
It is an intimidating experience for law-abiding people to be told by officers that their beliefs are against the law. Even where no arrest is ever made, it exerts a dangerous chilling effect on free speech.
Argyll and Bute Council are in the news for falling foul of the Streisand Effect, the act of trying to suppress information but simply making it more widespread as a result.
Martha Payne, from Argyll, was writing about her school dinners on her NeverSeconds blog, taking pictures of them and offering ratings for their nutritional value.
But Argyll and Bute Council banned her from taking photos of her school's food, saying press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.
However, they reckoned without the Streisand Effect, which saw the photo ban make headline news in some of the nation's biggest media organisations and the story spiral into a much bigger one that it ever was before.
The furore forced the local authority to reverse the ban, with the leader issuing a bollox propaganda statement claiming that there was no place for censorship on the council.
For reasons unknown, British Airways has started submitting cut versions of films to the film censors of the BBFC.
The films are submitted for a Video on Demand rating and are noted as an Airline Version.
Assuming that the British Airways video system works on NTSC with the same running times as cinema versions, then the first 3 examples have been pre-cut as follows:
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Pre-cut by 1:02s It received a PG certificate without BBFC cuts. Note that the longer and uncut cinema version was also rated a PG with the same consumer advice: contains mild action adventure
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was more illuminating. The Airline Version was pre-cut by 1:23s for a 12 rating (the same as the cinema version) but the cuts resulted in a change of consumer advice. The Cinema Version reads: Contains one
use of strong language and moderate sex references . The Airline Version advice reads: Contains infrequent strong language and moderate sex references.
The Wrath of Titans. The airline version was pre-cut by 2:24s. The 12 rating and consumer advice was unchanged from the uncut cinema version.
The Royal College of Nursing passed a motion calling for more education and awareness about the risks of children playing adult-rated games. At their annual conference in Harrogate, they claimed exposure to these images could harm children.
Nurses said some products on the market were littered with explicit references to violence, sex and drug-taking.
The nurses cited the case of Anders Behring Breivik, who was said to have trained for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer by using games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the World of Warcraft.
Britain has added its condemnation to the unprecedented lashing sentence against Iranian cartoonist Mahmud Shokraye.
He was sentenced to 25 lashes earlier this week over his depiction of conservative lawmaker Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani as a football player. Ashtiani is noted for interfering in sports issues.
A British Foreign Office statement said:
Charges should never have been brought at all for this innocuous act, but it is sadly not surprising given the government has consistently shown such flagrant disregard for its citizens' rights and freedoms.
In an earlier joint statement, a dozen Iran-based websites condemned Shokraye's sentence and warned that it sets a dangerous precedent. The statement noted that drawing cartoons of politicians, including of Iranian presidents and other top officials, is
common in Iran.
An Iranian MP who brought a case against a cartoonist that resulted in a sentence of 25 lashes has withdrawn his complaint after widespread condemnation of the artist's conviction.
Mahmoud Shokraye was found guilty of insulting Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, MP for Arak, in a cartoon he drew of the parliamentarian in Nameye Amir, a city newspaper.
In an unprecedented punishment for an Iranian cartoonist, a media law court in Arak handed down a sentence of 25 lashes, triggering domestic and international outcry among Shokraye's colleagues and human rights organisations.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday that Ashtiani had withdrawn his complaint. Experts familiar with Iranian law said it would mean the cartoonist's conviction would be quashed.
In response to the artist's sentence, cartoonists launched a campaign of drawing new caricatures of the MP, with many Iranians and their colleagues across the world contributing by posting their cartoons online. The Guardian's Martin Rowson also
contributed by drawing Ashtiani in a nappy with a lash in his mouth.
As announced in the Queen's Speech, the Department for Culture, Media, Sport and Censorship is seeking views about the exemptions in the Video Recordings Act and about how advertisements shown in cinemas are censored.
Consultation Open date: 09 May 2012
Closing date: 01 August 2012
Please send your comments or if you have any queries about this consultation to:
or by post:
Advertising and Exemption Consultation Department for Culture,
Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH
Cinema Advertising Censorship
The government is asking whether the BBFC really needs to get involved in the censorship of cinema adverts. At the moment it is mandatory that the BBFC rate such advertising, but the Government is asking if the more general system of advert censorship
provided by CAP and ASA is sufficient.
Option 0: No change
Under this option cinema advertisements would continue to be referred to the BBFC for age rating whilst also being subject to mandatory self-regulation overseen by the ASA.
This regime has been in place for a number of years and it could be considered that it should remain on the grounds that it appears to work effectively to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate content via cinema advertisements and
consumers' rights are properly observed. Some may feel also that the statutory backing is an essential element of the regime.
However, as set out earlier in the preceding paragraphs, others may consider that the age rating role provided by the BBFC in relation to cinema advertisements is already adequately covered by the self-regulatory approach of the industry and that it
therefore represents an unnecessary burden on business.
Option 1: Remove the requirement for BBFC classification of cinema advertisements
This option would potentially remove the financial and administrative burdens on the cinema advertising industry of having to submit each advert to the BBFC for an age rating. Arguably, this would also make matters simpler for industry, reducing the
additional time constraints resulting from both BBFC and CAA clearance.
The BBFC has indicated that the current average classification cost is around £111 per ad classified. There is an additional administrative burden for industry attached to this process in supplying the BBFC with hard copies of the adverts requiring
classification. The impact on the BBFC of removing the classification requirement would simply relate to their resourcing of this function.
However, could removing the requirement to age rate adverts shown in cinemas by the BBFC result in a reduction in consumer and child protection? The industry bodies and the CAA believe the existing advertising clearance system as set out in paragraphs
4.6 to 4.23, underpinned by the ASA's non-broadcast advertising code (CAP Code), is robust enough to ensure there are no regulatory gaps, particularly in relation to child protection, and that suitable consumer safeguards will be maintained.
This option would also not place additional enforcement burdens on local authorities
On music censorship the government is nominally considering 4 options:
option 0: Leave the existing exemptions in place and untouched, on the basis that either the present arrangements do not give rise to concerns to an extent that would justify legislative change, or that removing exemptions would place unnecessary or
disproportionate burdens on industry for limited benefit.
option 1: Remove the exemptions from age rating for music, sports, religious and educational video works. This requires primary legislation to achieve. Removing the exemption would mean that producers would have to submit all film material to the BBFC
for classification before making them available for sale in the UK regardless of genre.
option 2: Lower the existing content thresholds for exemption so that more products are brought within scope of the age rating requirement (as we have done recently for video games). This can be achieved by secondary legislation.
option 3: Ask other parts of the video industry to introduce a self-regulatory parental advisory system for the currently exempt genres, similar to the BPI's PAS labelling scheme for the music-themed products.
My Government intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.
So there we have it -- the Communication Capabilities Development Programme will have it's day in Parliament. We don't know what the draft clauses will be or when we will see them, but the Government remains intent on pursuing legislation in the coming
session of Parliament.
The Home Office have been very good at saying what the problem is, but seem intent on keeping the technical details of what they are proposing secret. Is it any wonder that the public are scared by a proposal for online surveillance not seen in any other
The Snoopers' Charter : the Communications Data Bill is about to be published by the government.
When the coalition was elected, they promised that:
We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason (1)
Nick Clegg added:
We won't hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. (2)
Now, the government is saying that companies like Facebook and Google must keep your email and messaging records for 12 months, whether or not you are under suspicion: and that the records (not the content) must be handed over on the say-so of a police
The government are asking for powers to intercept and collect information about who you talk to online by snooping on your Internet traffic, in case companies based outside the UK don't agree to hand over your information.
That makes us all a suspect. Instead of being under surveillance when there is evidence of wrongdoing, you will be under suspicion by default.
As announced in the Queen's Speech, the Government will introduce a law to protect freedom of speech and reform the law of defamation .
The libel reform campaign, nearly 100 organisations and 60,000 supporters including leading names from science, the arts and public life have been calling for legislation to reform the libel laws since December 2009. Congratulations to all on this
Now we need to see the details of the Bill and will work to ensure the reforms will do away with unwarranted chilling, bullying effects of the current laws.
Over the coming months, the Libel Reform Campaign will continue to fight for:
a public interest defence so people can defend themselves unless the claimant can show they have been malicious or reckless.
a strong test of harm that strikes out claims unless the claimant can demonstrate serious and substantial harm and they have a real prospect of vindication.
a restriction on corporations' ability to use the libel laws to silence criticism.
provisions for online hosts and intermediaries, who are not authors nor traditional publishers.
The Bill contains a number of measures of interest to ISPs, including a single publication rule and new defences for hosting providers and operators of websites with user-generated content.
The single publication rule
Currently, a claim for defamation can be brought up to one year after publication. This limitation is measured from the last time the allegedly defamatory article was published. However, viewing an article online essentially involves the host
transmitting a copy of that article over the Internet, which counts in legal terms as republishing the article. This means that there is, in effect, no time limit for making a defamation claim against the publisher of an online article, since the law
considers the article to be republished every time it is viewed.
The Defamation Bill solves this problem by introducing a single publication rule. If the Bill becomes law, the limitation period will be measured from the first time an article is published, rather than the last, as long as the manner of a subsequent
publication is not materially different from the manner of the first publication . This should go some way towards placing online content on an equal footing with offline content.
New defences for website operators
Under current defamation law, website operators and hosting providers risk being found liable for defamation if they refuse to take down content that a court later finds to be defamatory. A blogger could, for example, be held liable for failing to remove
a defamatory comment posted by one of her readers, while the ISP that hosts the blog could in turn be liable for failing to remove defamatory statements posted by the blogger.
The new Defamation Bill provides a weak looking defence in cases where the defamatory contents was posted by someone other than the website operator or host:
5 Operators of websites
It is a defence for the operator to show that it was not the operator who posted the statement on the website. The defence is defeated if the claimant shows that---
it was not possible for the claimant to identify the person who posted the statement, the claimant gave the operator a notice of complaint in relation to the statement, and the operator failed to respond to the notice of complaint
in accordance with any provision contained in regulations.
This seems hardly worth having as websites are generally are not in a position to meaningfully identify posters, and so the defence simply will not apply in the vast majority of cases.
Last week the UK High Court ruled that several of the country's leading ISPs must block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. The decision is designed to limit traffic to the world's leading BitTorrent site but in the short-term it had the opposite
effect. Over the last few days The Pirate Bay has had 12 million more visitors daily than it has ever had before.
A site insider told TorrentFreak that this provided a golden opportunity to educate users on how to circumvent blocks: We should write a thank you letter to the BPI. It's not possible to buy advertising articles from leading UK
publications such as the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph, but The Pirate Bay news was spread across all of them and dozens beside, for free. The news was repeated around the UK, across Europe and around the world reaching millions of people. The results for
the site were dramatic.
Another thing that's good with the traffic surge is that we now have time to teach even more people how to circumvent Internet censorship, the insider added.
Last Friday the UK High Court ruled that several of country's leading ISPs must censor The Pirate Bay website having ruled in February that the site and its users breach copyright on a grand scale. The blocks, to be implemented by Sky, Everything
Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media (BT are still considering their position), are designed to cut off all but the most determined file-sharers from the world's most popular torrent site.
In fact Virgin Media were the first off the blocks and have already started to block the site.
I don't suppose the security services will be very pleased that so many internet users are encouraged to use VPNs and proxies etc. They will now be looking for needles in much larger haystacks with some of the barn lights going dark.
Update: Seeing Orange
10th May 2012. Thanks to James
As of 9th May, The Pirate Bay has been vetoed by Orange.
Here is a screenshot of what Pirate Bay visitors get to see via Orange.
Absolutely disgusted, a total violation of internet freedom and what it is meant for.
The UK High Court has ruled that several ISPs including Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must censor The Pirate Bay file sharing website.
The blocking process was established in law by the media industry action against the Newzbin2 Usenet indexing site last year. A few weeks later a conglomerate of music labels filed a lawsuit against several Internet providers, demanding that they block
subscriber access to The Pirate Bay.
Nine labels including EMI, Polydor, Sony, Virgin and Warner said that The Pirate Bay infringes their copyrights and that several ISPs including TalkTalk and Virgin Media should implement a blockade under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents
In February the High Court agreed that The Pirate Bay and its users do indeed breach copyright on a major scale, and this decision has now been followed by a court order.
ISPs Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must censor The Pirate Bay website in the weeks to come. A sixth ISP, BT, has asked for more time to consider its position.
The Open Rights Group says the court-ordered block represents the thin end of the wedge.
Blocking the Pirate Bay is pointless and dangerous. It will fuel calls for further, wider and even more drastic calls for Internet censorship of many kinds, from pornography to extremism, ORG Executive Director Jim Killock said: Internet
censorship is growing in scope and becoming easier. Yet it never has the effect desired. It simply turns criminals into heroes.
Early day motion 3014: VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES (No. 2)
Primary sponsor: Keith Vaz
That this House is reminded of the consequences of the ineffectual Pan European Game Information (PEGI) classification system for video games following the testimony of Anders Breivik about the tragic events in Norway in July 2011;
notes that in his submission of evidence to the court Breivik describes how he trained for the attacks using the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ;
is disturbed that Breivik used the game to help hone his target acquisition and the suggestion that the simulation prepared him for the attacks;
is concerned that PEGI as a classification system can only provide an age-rating and not restrict ultra-violent content; recognises that in an era of ever-more sophisticated and realistic game-play more robust precautions must be taken before video games
are published; and
calls on the Government to provide for closer scrutiny of aggressive first-person shooter video games.
There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.
But the censors of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini's photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.
A policeman took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed policemen from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.
Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery said: We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. They stood there and didn't leave until we took the piece down.
Thankfully it was the final day of the exhibition when the plods arrived.
It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.
In a paper submitted to the Leveson inquiry, the TV and radio censor, Ofcom, said reform of press regulation can be achieved if the body which takes over from the Press Complaints Commission is set up with a more robust framework and the power to impose
proper sanctions on errant newspapers. Ofcom added:
Properly constituted, effective and independent self-regulation could be the basis of a new model of press regulation.
But the censor said that in order for self-regulation to work certain elements of the new regime, such as rules governing membership, may need to be recognised by a statute.
In the areas of membership and governance, there could be concerns about whether self-regulation would be sufficient to develop a system with genuine legitimacy and capable of building public trust. A minimal enabling statute -- or recognition in statute
-- could be necessary in these areas.
If Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is worried by his party's poor showing in the polls, he might be advised to take some tips from another fairly liberal leader currently doing rather better down under.
Two weeks ago, Fiona Patten, convenor of the Australian Sex Party, celebrated her party's breakthrough into double digits, when they scored 10% of the vote in a Victoria state contest. This is approximately 2% better than polls are currently placing the
UK's Lib Dems!
Fiona is in the UK this weekend delivering a keynote address to an academic conference, Onscenity, which is dedicated to exploring the new visibility of sex in commerce, culture and everyday life.
Her message is simple: small parties can make a difference. They need to make a difference. Fiona explains:
Proportional representation and very similar showing by the two main parties means that the Australian parliament has been hijacked by the religious right.
With just a small proportion of the votes, and rarely more than one or two seats nationally, parties with a religious or family values agenda have stalled a great deal of social reform in both major parties.
Our clear objective, in the Australian Sex Party, is to use the same system to give voice to the vast majority of Australian men and women who believe in allowing adults to be adults, and are sick and tired of being lectured to by a nanny legislature.
As a former sex worker and Chief Executive of the Eros adult trade association, Fiona is no stranger to controversy. However, her commitment to political change is serious, and despite adding a slight edge to Australian politics, the Sex Party's agenda
is equally serious and unlikely to look out of place in many European states.
Their policies include a commitment to sex education in schools, as well as advocating a range of rights for women and members of other minority groups which are now taken for granted in most western nations.
Next week the London Book Fair welcomes China, the world's largest publisher by volume, as the 2012 market focus and has teamed up with the British Council to invite around 20 Chinese writers to west London for a series of readings, discussions
and talks celebrating the best in Chinese literature. But the writers who make up the delegation and the events at which they'll be speaking have been chosen in consultation with partners including China's General Administration of Press and Publishing
(Gapp), whose responsibilities include the censorship of newspapers and publishers. According to writer Ma Jian this makes true cultural exchange impossible, and puts freedom of expression in China under yet more pressure:
For China to be named guest of honour. for the British cultural establishment to be shaking hands with the Chinese head of propaganda, a man responsible for the banning and censoring of books and the imprisonment of writers, is disgraceful.
The Swansea student given 56 days in prison for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter should not have been jailed, according to Europe's most senior human rights official.
In an interview the day before he left office, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said the sentence imposed by British courts on Liam Stacey was excessive.
After six years in his post at Strasbourg, the Swedish official used his departing comments to plead for greater freedom of expression and to question blanket imposition of traditional media restraints on the internet. Hammarberg told the Guardian:
It was too much. He shouldn't have gone to prison. To put him in prison was wrong.
Politicians are at a bit of loss to know how to ... protect internet freedom while also having regulations against [such problems as] hate speech and child pornography.
There are limits to freedom of expression but regulators don't know how to handle this. It would be useful to have a more enlightened discussion at a European level, otherwise we are going to have different practices in different countries.
In traditional media there are editors who are responsible for print content. It's not so easy to have to the same legal procedures when it comes to action [against lone online voices].
People are at a loss to know how to apply rules for the traditional media to the new media. It's tricky and that's why there needs to be a more thorough discussion about this.
The High Court has ruled that decisions made by Nominet's dispute resolution service (DRS) may not be appealed in the courts, in cases concerning accusations of abusive domain name registration.
The court held that the registration contract did not leave a role for the court, as abusive registration is a term that only has meaning within the context of the Nominet DRS and cannot itself be the cause of legal action before the courts.
The judgement overturns the ruling of the Patents County Court in a dispute between Michael Toth, who registered the domain name emirates.co.uk in 2002, and the Emirates airline, which later sought and gained possession of the domain name through
Nominet's dispute resolution service.
Toth successfully appealed to the Patents County Court for a declaration that the domain name was not registered abusively. However, the case was subsequently appealed in the High Court, which last week ruled that the such cases cannot be appealed in the
The DRS and Procedure put in place a regime in which the question of abusive registration is one for, and only for, the Expert appointed under the DRS.